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“The Willoughbys” Is Harmless Animation For Families Stuck Inside

2020 has proven to be an interesting time for animation. Ever since the Coronavirus pandemic closed down movie theaters, the entire film industry has had to recalibrate. Right now, animated fare is thriving, thanks to families being desperate for new things to watch at home. Trolls World Tour had a VOD debut, Onward has been a bigger hit on Digital and Disney+ than it was in theaters, and so on. This week, Netflix joins in with one of their big animated pushes for 2020 in The Willoughbys. A bright and manic flick, it has moments of lively fun and will enthrall younger audience members. As for adults? Well, it won’t be a chore to sit through, at least.

The movie is an animated adventure, centering on the title family, and in particular, the children. Narrated by The Cat (voice of Ricky Gervais), we learn of the plight of the youngest Willoughbys. The kids, consisting of first born son Tim (voice of Will Forte), daughter Jane (voice Alessia Cara), and twins boys named Barnaby (voice of Seán Cullen) live with incredible selfish parents Father (voice of Martin Short) and Mother (voice of Jane Krakowski). Completely ignored and neglected, they’re positive they’d be better off raising themselves. So, the kids begin to hatch a plan to get rid of their parents, sending them on a vacation they’d never return from. Thus begins an adventure for the siblings, one that ultimately will, you guessed it, teach them the true meaning of family. Kris Pearn co-directs with Cory Evans and Rob Lodermeier, while Pearn also co-writes with Priscilla Parizeau and Mark Stanleigh here, based on the book by Lois Lowry. Sebastian Brodin provides the cinematography, while Mark Mothersbaugh composes the score. Other voice performers in the project include Terry Crews, Maya Rudolph, and more.

Colorful animation and energy are the name of the game here. The film never once slows down, and you either get on board with its good hearted manic nature or you don’t. The mania can definitely wear thin for some, but there’s certainly a charm at play. There isn’t any standout voice performances, but the animation itself is the star. Co-writer/co-director Kris Pearn, along with co-directors Cory Evans, as well as Rob Lodermeier, plus co-writers Mark Stanleigh and Priscilla Parizeau, have a vision at play. Some may shrug it off quickly as not being for them, but most folks will be at least partly charmed by it all. Combined with the zippy and upbeat Mark Mothersbaugh score, this is certainly effective family entertainment.

The Willoughbys is definitely aimed at younger viewers. At the same time, it never becomes so specifically for little ones that the adults supervising them can’t get on board too. To be sure, parents are not going to like this nearly as much as their children will. The color scheme and the overall tone is so bright and upbeat that that’s a certainty. However, those who can appreciate unique animation will have that to grab on to, as well, and that’s a definite boon to the flick.

Now streaming on Netflix, The Willoughbys will definitely appeal to kids, while not driving adults up a wall. At a time like this, what else can you ask for? The streaming giant may not have an Oscar winner on their hands here, but one can definitely see it being in contention for a Best Animated Feature nomination if the Academy Awards are held as usual. Time will tell, but for now, if you have little ones at home, this is a good option for 90 minutes of solid distraction…

Be sure to check out The Willoughbys, now streaming on Netflix!

(Photos courtesy of Netflix)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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